Yousef Sobouti: Dr. Masoumi, you used the phrase “scientific illiteracy.” Can you explain in simpler words exactly what you mean by that?
Masoumi Hamedani: In Iran, science is taught as if it has nothing to do with everyday life. It does not inspire curiosity in our children about the natural phenomena that surround them. Our children can solve any kind of conceivable mathematical equation, but they cannot give an estimate of the size of a phenomenon they encounter in nature. This is what I meant by scientific illiteracy.
Another facet of scientific illiteracy that is more visible and more or less global is the rejection of scientific theory in favor of cultural and religious dogma. An example might be a molecular biologist who believes in creationism—there are such people. It is not certain that science is compatible with all ways of life and beliefs.
Glenn Schweitzer: Would you comment on the impact of television on scientific literacy? Do you think that television has brought some great changes in the way scientists proceed?
Hamedani: In my view, Iranian television is good and possibly the sole medium that exposes our youth to certain aspects of nature, wildlife, and natural phenomena. But I have no ready answer to your question, and at the international level it requires a vast investigation.
stone falls identically in Tehran, Washington, or Tokyo. For the layman, and in particular for students in school, this may create a sense of universality in our world in spite of all conflicts and divergences between people. This is one reason why teaching science to schoolchildren is so important.